A Letter To My Employed Self

It doesn’t have to be new to be enjoyed. This has always been one of my favourite posts and I sincerely hope becomes one of yours too. Happy #tbt

State of the Ward

There’s a book by author Joseph Galliano called “Dear Me: A letter to my sixteen-year-old self”. It’s a wonderful compilation of letters written by people to their younger selves. Some of the writers are famous, some unknown and all are fabulous. If you haven’t read it, you should. If you have, you understand.

If we could go back and do it all again, some of us would do it exactly the same and some of us would write a hasty letter to warn our younger selves to do it all very differently. Likewise, perhaps when you look back at your last job some of you reflect and think, I’d do it exactly the same. But perhaps, some days, or maybe just in some instances, you think there are things you would do very differently. I do.

Inspired by the idea, I wrote a letter to my previously employed self…

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It has begun. We are moving.  It would be nice to say we are moving in. But we are just moving out.

Unemployment paid me a surprise visit a few months ago. At first it was just over-nighting. (Or so I thought). Then it was passing through. Then all of a sudden, it lived here. Food was less, bills were more and my unwelcomed visitor just won’t leave. We tried to work with it. We tried working around it. But unemployment just does not work.

The financial strain of living on less requires a new strategy. Otherwise we’ll soon be looking for a creative strategy for living on none.  So, we are moving out. We are leaving our home of almost 10 years. This was our first place. We have had our best parties, arguments, kisses and Christmases here. And now it’s all crammed into boxes and bags. The rooms are empty. The walls are naked. The cabinets are bare. My heart is broken.

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I can’t help but feel the full weight of responsibility for this unscheduled shift in our lives. I’m usually good at letting go. I don’t forget quickly, (my friends will nod here) because I’m cautious not to repeat past mistakes, but I do forgive. (Friends, you should also nod here). Up until now, I thought I’d succeeded. I thought I’d let go of being let go. But as I look around at cold floors once warmed by soft rugs and empty windows once draped by heavy curtains I made myself, I am angry.  I am hurt. My heart is heavy. My fists are firm. My jaw is clenched. And I’m afraid I don’t like you very much. (You know who you are.) I shall have to start over. Anger and heartache won’t let me heal, so now my soul must move, as I do.

When we packed in preparation to move, things first had to be sorted. Over time there are many things. Things you accumulate in duplicate, things you were given, things you bought, things lost, things found, things you love but don’t use, things you use but don’t love. Not all of these things you’ll take with you. Most things you warily wrap, precociously package and lovingly label. These things you’ll keep. But some things will be thrown away. Bagged and left by the curb for collection.

Likewise, I am moving inwardly. I’ve completed my sorting. The knowledge I gained and friends I’ve made, I take with me.  But the rest… The disappointment, the anger, the hurt, the frustration, the confusion, the doubt, the self pity, the tears, the sleeplessness, the heartache, the worry, the whys, the whynots, the past and you, I throw away. I do not like you, but I forgive you. I won’t forget you, but I’ve already bagged you and left you at the curb for collection. Because I am moving. Moving out. And moving on. It has begun.

Had a Bad Day

You roll-over, still in the caressing embraces of slumber, snuggle your face into the pillow and readjust the comforter around you, making sure to cover your slightly chilled ears. There is the soft beginnings of a smile on your face when you realize the alarm hasn’t sounded and you have just a few minutes more to enjoy this last moment of quiet solitude. You feel the creeping warmth of sunshine on your closed lids and before…wait. What was that? Sunshine? (Panic!)

Your eyes fly open to find the alarm clock winking a slow taunting 12:00 back at you. (Dear Lord.) You try to reach something with your one free arm (the other is still under covers), anything to confirm the time. You reach the cell phone. (Gasp!).  But that can’t be right. Where is the watch? (Instant headache). You’re late! You throw the covers off and flee from bed, stumping your toe on your way to the bathroom. As you hobble into the shower in haste the water isn’t set quite right and you scald the leg with the stumped toe. Retreating to try again, the water is too cold but you don’t have the time to waste so you have a frosty shower. Drying off you remember immediately, you’re out of deodorant. (Sigh.) And so the day goes on.

Surely you’ve had one of these, or one something like it, one of those days when everything goes wrong, right from the start. We call them ‘bad days’, although usually ‘bad’ seems a poor, weak description of the mammoth failure of a day it has been. Hopefully, since you’ve been home there haven’t been many of these. For one thing, why bother to set the alarm anymore? But imagine a bad day where things go so wrong, other people die. And you get to live with it.

Yesterday Yahoo! News featured a story captioned “Titanic sunk by steering mistake, author says”. The story states that according to writer Louise Patten, granddaughter of Titanic’s second officer Charles Lightoller, were it not for an “error” in judgment, the infamous ship which sank in 1912 taking 1,517 people to their deaths, need not have sank as fast as it did. It was a “fatal mistake” that caused the ship to fully sink before rescue could arrive. Patten is quoted as saying “If Titanic had stood still, she would have survived at least until the rescue ship came and no one need have died”. The author claims that her grandfather lived with the secret of the ill-fated decisions which truly led to the disaster, in order to save Titanic’s owners from bankruptcy and his colleagues from unemployment.

A fatal mistake, an error in judgement and 1,517 lives lost when “no one need have died”. Can there be a greater tragedy?
I can’t begin to image the constant inner turmoil of keeping such a secret for a week, far less, for years. If it is possible to prove the truth of these claims more than a century later, I commend Louise Patten for bringing the truth to light. It cannot have been an easy decision to intentionally sully her family’s name and grandfather’s memory. Especially when we could have easily lived on in ignorance. It is not as if the doom of the great ship was an unsolved mystery in need of solution. The truth could have lain forever with the ship at the bottom of the ocean and we’d be none the wiser.

I was relieved of my job without anyone asking if I thought I needed relief  from it and from time to time, I tend to wallow in my perceived injustice of it. Yesterday was one such day for me. I woke with a headache and used the opportunity to grump and frump around for most of the day. If asked I could easily chalk it up to a bad one. (Not that anyone  was asking). I will usually cut myself some slack when I fall into these personal pity parties. You and I know these moments of self-imposed grief are part of being unemployed and are also an essential part of our recovery process.  But after I read this article I realized that perhaps my bad day, was perhaps not that bad. The headache had passed, only I had failed to notice. And I had also failed to notice in my gloom, the many other but wonderful things around me I had to be grateful for. My day was in fact made bad, only because I choose to see it so. Unlike first officer William Murdoch, I still had time to recover from a bad decision. I could choose to make my day a good one.While (clearly) I never knew him, my heart goes out to Charles Lightoller, for the grievous errors made, for the anguish of lives lost, for the burden of secrets kept and for the history to be rewritten about this once heroic icon, surely now turned villain, his was truly a bad day.

Perhaps in reflection your next bad day, may not seem so bad. And while, like I do, you may struggle with understanding why you’re not working, I hope  you can read this with a sense of peace. Knowing any mistakes you made on the job, or  any mistakes you were thought to have made, were not fatal.

Today, I sincerely wish you a good day.

Reference: Read the full story by Mike Collett-White “Titanic sunk by steering mistake, author says”

Seeking Silver Linings

Missed me? I missed you too. (Assuming you said yes, not that there’s any other answer). I was sick for a bit and didn’t write. (Apologies). But what I did do and I did lots of it I might add, is watch. World news, local news, sitcoms, series and movies. The tragic, the gory, the funny, the sorrowful and the strange. I watched it all. Observing helps you to see things from another view. While you have been busy throwing yourself a pity party for one, the world kept spinning and things kept happening. And do you know what that means? It is not only about you.

Ok, I just lost half of you. But if you are still reading, first of all thanks and now let me explain.

Unemployment is lonely. It is something you have to endure alone. While others will help in every and any way they can (when you let them), you alone bear the burden. Being laid off with a group of former colleagues will not make it any less lonely either, because although the next person may understand what not working is like, your financial, spiritual and emotional situation is unique and efforts to help may only further isolate you. Still, if you have group support as an option, take it.

Rain drops on ladybugIn that loneliness, it is easy to become a bit self-absorbed, thinking only of yourself and your current situation. They did you wrong. What happened was not fair. How can that dimwit still have a job and you, with twice the brain and three times the effort have none? I know. I get how you feel.

This, while being part of the process, is an unproductive part of the process, so the faster you can get past this stage, the better. Don’t skip it altogether though, venting and a good old fashioned cry have their place. Just don’t stay in that mode for a year. You’ll miss a lot.

Keep it in perspective and focus on the positive. Did you sigh, roll your eyes and shake your head? Yeah, I did too. Everyone says this and all you think to yourself is, ‘they don’t get it’. It may seem that way but actually, those ‘accentuate the positive’ people, do get it and they are right. Watched the news recently? I dare you to take in an hour and not cry. Earthquakes, flooding, murders, accidents, people homeless and hungry. It’s dismal and it’s everywhere and all around. But unless it is your current reality, (which if you are on a computer and online and reading a blog, I doubt it is), you have already got a lot to be grateful for.

If you can read this, you have got electricity. It’s a bit leaky but there’s a roof over your head. The rug may be worn but there is a floor under your feet. Your beef is of the corned variety and your tuna came from a can, but if you ate a meal today, no matter how small, you did better than more than 1.2 billion others. I can keep going but that would defeat the purpose. Make your own list.

Take 5 minutes when you’re feeling a bit low and write a list of all the things you are grateful for. Keep it for the day but not longer. This way you can change it up and write different things. It can be basic (food), broad (the ocean), simple (spouse), or trivial (my shoe collection), be grateful.

Still don’t feel like smiling today? That’s ok. Grumpy is part of the process too. But before you get carried away and throw yourself a permanent pity party, I’d like to point out that you are unemployed, not dead and life is good. Keep living.

Long Live the King

I was standing contentedly in the patio sipping my morning mug of coffee. It was such a lovely morning, pretty and peaceful and the only interruption was the sound of the garbage-truck making its intermittent stops as it slowing progressed down the street. Nothing beckoned my urgent attention, I have no job to rush to, so I waited for the truck to appear. I waved to the driver when he came into view, he smiled and nodded a polite reply. The worker was distracted by the bins for awhile, but as he passed me, our eyes met. As before, I smiled over my mug and waved. Caught up with his work he didn’t reply. It was some seconds later before our eyes met again. By then my mind had wondered and my smile had faded, replaced by a furrowed brow and the soft beginning of a frown. He stared for a moment and I can only describe his expression as a scowl. Shaking his head in despair, he leaped onto the truck, slapped the side powerfully, twice and along with truck and driver disappeared from my view.

He snubbed me.

What was that about? Now I was disturbed. His look bothered me. I stood there for awhile listening to the fading sounds of the truck and feeling the heat in my mug cool. I seem to have offended my garbage-man. I believe he mistook my pensive look for pity. If only he knew. I was at the moment he caught my contemplative stare, envying him, his work. I was thinking that his job is a hard one and I wondered if his boss praised him. I wondered if he had a family and if his family appreciated his efforts. I wondered in those seconds how much he was paid and if all his bills would be settled. I did not look down on you my dear garbage-man, I admired you, your work.

I almost dressed and ran after him to explain but by then I couldn’t hear the truck any more. One day I will help him understand. He is working and I am not. In the land of the unemployed, the garbage-man is king.

Objective: Get out of bed

It started like any other day. The sun rose, the birds chirped, the dogs barked, the morning air was fresh. I half expected Mr. Rogers to open my bedroom door and burst into “it’s a beautiful day in the neighbourhood”. So when the mailman showed up it was just in keeping with the theme. Until, that is, I inspected the mail a little closer. Let’s see, bill, bill, thank you note from church I attended with invite to come back (not likely, they were weird), bill and ah, why yes, a bill. And just like that my glorious morning turned gloomy.

While unemployment generally sucks, every day isn’t the same. Some days you’ll awake ready to conquer the universe. Some you’ll be quiet and reflective. On others you’ll busy yourself with chores, and the sense of accomplishment that comes from a clean house will minimize the rejection you feel from an empty in-box.  There are days of despair, loneliness and confusion. Days of optimism, faith and hope.

And then, there are days like today. When going back to bed and starting over seems the only sensible option. Apologies to those who were expecting some profound note of wisdom, today I have none. I’m going back to bed and to sleep.  I’ll try again tomorrow. We’ll go hunting together then. Promise.